UAE Carriers Launch IATA’s New COVID-19 Travel Pass

Both Etihad and Emirates will become the first airlines globally to trial the new travel pass from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This mobile app will help travelers to ensure their pre-travel test and/or vaccination records meet the needs of the destination to which they are traveling.

Etihad Airways Airbus A380-861 A6-APF (2)
Emirates and Etihad will be the launch operators for a trial of the IATA Travel Pass. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Middle East airlines keen to restart travel

For airlines like Emirates and Etihad, reopening international travel is crucial to their business models. With limited opportunities for short-haul activities within their region, carriers in the UAE rely on shuttling passengers between east and west through their hubs.

As such, anything that can make it swifter and easier to get people onto the plane again will be welcomed with open arms. Therefore, it’s not a great surprise that both Emirates and Etihad have jumped at the chance to become the launch customers for a trial of a new Travel Pass from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Etihad Airways Airbus A380-861 A6-APF (1)
Emirates will roll out the Pass on ‘select flights’ during the first quarter. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Both airlines will be rolling out the Travel Pass in the coming weeks. For Etihad customers, the Pass will initially be offered to passengers on selected flights from Abu Dhabi in the first quarter of the year. Mohammad Al Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer at Etihad Aviation Group, commented,

“COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will be key to get the world flying again. Since 1 August 2020, Etihad is the only airline requiring a pre-departure negative PCR test result for all passengers worldwide, and again on arrival in Abu Dhabi, giving our guests the added assurance of safety when they travel with us.

“A high priority for Etihad is for our guests to have an easy, secure and efficient way to identify and verify their information. Being one of the first airlines globally working with IATA as a pioneer partner on the IATA Travel Pass is a big step forward for Etihad’s guests and for the industry.”

Emirates Airbus A380-861 A6-EDO (2)
Emirates will begin offering the trial in April. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

For Emirates, prior to a full rollout of the Pass, the airline will be implementing what it is calling ‘phase 1’ in Dubai. This will allow it to validate COVID-19 PCR tests before departure. Expected to begin in April, this will give passengers the opportunity to send their COVID-19 test status to Emirates before reaching the airport, saving time and hassle on site. Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer, noted that,

“While international travel remains as safe as ever, there are new protocols and travel requirements with the current global pandemic. We have worked with IATA on this innovative solution to simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner. We are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to pilot this initiative, which will provide an enhanced customer experience and conveniently facilitate our customers’ travel needs.”

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What is the Travel Pass?

Developed in house by IATA, the Travel Pass provides a centralized, app-based ‘digital passport’ to collect and verify all the pre-travel requirements passengers might need. Within the app, passengers will be able to verify that their test and/or vaccination meets the requirements of the destination they want to travel to, and can even share their vaccination or test certificates with the relevant authorities to enable travel.

As well as this, it provides support for passengers both before and during the travel experience. Passengers can, at a glance, find accurate and up to date information on the testing, vaccine and travel requirements for their journey, and can even help them locate a suitable testing center or lab which meets the standards for vaccines or tests required in their destination.

Etihad Airways to launch IATA Travel Pass
The IATA Travel Pass acts as a digital health passport. Photo: Etihad

Some of these labs will even be able to securely send test results or vaccination certificates directly to passengers via the app. Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, added,

“This is the first step in making international travel during the pandemic as convenient as possible giving people the confidence that they are meeting all COVID-19 entry requirements by governments. As borders re-open, IATA Travel Pass will be further enhanced with more capabilities to meet all governments testing or vaccination verification requirements.”

With the assistance of these two UAE airlines in trialing the app, IATA will be able to gather crucial information and feedback from users, helping it to tailor the Travel Pass to be the ideal solution to restarting travel.